My passport will expire within a few months, so it’s time to renew. As an expat living abroad, I don’t plan on any travel outside of Costa Rica, especially with all the different COVID-19 restrictions in place. However, I don’t want to wait until the last minute to renew my passport.
The first step is to contact my local U.S. Embassy, which is located in San Jose. I reviewed the Embassy’s website at: firstname.lastname@example.org. ACS stands for American Citizens Services, which is housed within the Embassy. The home page of the website listed the Embassy’s location, mailing address, and hours of operation as well as various contact phone numbers. I scrolled down to click on the U.S Citizens Services link, then selected Passport Services on the next page. I carefully read all the security information regarding items not permitted on Embassy grounds as well as the information under “How to apply for a U.S. Passport.” The current fee for a passport renewal is $110, and I needed to print and fill out a DS-82 form before my appointment.
When I clicked the link to schedule an appointment, I encountered a problem. The Embassy was working with limited staff, which meant limited hours, because of COVID-19. As a result, I couldn’t book an appointment. I called the Embassy to inquire about making an appointment and was told to go back to the website on February 16, when more appointment slots would be made available. As instructed, I went back to the website on February 16 and was able to make an appointment for 10:30 am on April 15.
On the day of my appointment, Tezzy and I got up early to catch the 7:45 am bus to San Jose, which usually takes about an hour. However, we encountered a lot of traffic and construction along the way, so we didn’t arrive in San Jose until about 9:35 am. We took an Uber to the Embassy, where I had to wait in line even though I had a 10:30 appointment. Only the person with the appointment is allowed inside the facility, and I had to put all of my personal items into a container, including my belt, coins, and pens, before going through the X-ray—just like at airports in the States. Once inside, I was asked to take a seat in the Citizens Services area and wait for my name to be called. Quite a few people were already waiting.
At about 11:00 am, I was summoned to Window 3, where I presented my documents. Unbeknownst to me, my new passport picture wasn’t the correct 2” x 2” size. The photo is smaller on Costa Rican passports. I was instructed to go to the photo shop across the street and get a new picture taken; once that was done, I didn’t have to wait in line again, just come back to Window 3. I proceeded to the small passport photo shop across the street, and returned to the Embassy and went through all the security measures again. At least this time I didn’t have to wait long to head to Window 3.
Now, with all my documents correct, I paid the $110 fee and was told that they will either call or email me in two weeks to come back and pick up my new passport—no appointment necessary. We are finally done!